Two More Catholic Churches Burn Down After Indigenous Remains Discovered
A further two Catholic churches have burnt down on First Nations reserve land in British Columbia, Canada.
The churches, both located in the Similkameen region, east of Vancouver and south of Kamloops, were found completely destroyed on Saturday morning, June 26.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said they received a call shortly before 4am about a fire at St. Ann’s Church, east of Hedley on Upper Similkameen Indian Band land. At 4.45am, they then received a call about a fire at Chopaka Church on Lower Similkameen Indian Band land, just east of Keremeos.
The fires come just days after two other Catholic churches on Indigenous land in Canada were burnt down.
Chief Keith Crow of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band was woken up on Saturday morning with news of the blaze at the Chopaka Church, which was built around 1896.
‘It’s a big impact. We still have our Christian and Catholic followers, and they just had service a couple weeks ago at that church. They were very upset on Monday when the two churches were burnt in Osoyoos and Penticton. Now that these ones have burnt, it’s devastating to them,’ Chief Crow told Castanet News.
Investigations are now underway to determine the cause of the fires, with RCMP saying both are ‘suspicious’.
‘I really don’t condone the actions of whoever’s done this, but it is under investigation. We’ll have to wait and see,’ Chief Crow added.
Since the discovery of 215 bodies at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, and a further 750 in unmarked graves at the former Marieval (Cowessess) Residential School in Saskatchewan, four Catholic churches have burnt to the ground in ‘suspicious’ circumstances.
Authorities have not said whether the discovery of the bodies and the fires are connected, though Chief Crow mentioned the schools when talking about the latest incident: ‘We’re in for more hurt now. Look at what happened in Saskatchewan, Kamloops, and Williams Lake is doing their testing right now. When all the rest of the residential schools start doing testing, there’s just going to be more and more pain that comes out; the 215 was just a start.’
Sgt. Jason Bayda of Penticton RCMP said investigators are ‘looking to determine any possible connection to the church fires in both Penticton and Oliver on June 21, 2021. The investigations into the previous fires and these two new fires are ongoing with no arrests or charges’, CTV News reports.
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